Fewer people were born than died in almost three-quarters of America's counties in the year between the middle months of 2020 and halfway through 2021, with the coronavirus pandemic claiming lives at a time when people were also putting off having children, new census figures show.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more died than were born in 2,297 of the 3,143 counties in the nation, marking the largest number of counties that have recorded a natural decrease in the country's history, reports The Hill.
Overall, just slightly more people were born in the United States during the same period than died, with more than 3.4 million Americans dying, marking death numbers that were 20% higher than they were two years ago.
But according to an analysis from Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, fewer than 3.6 million children were born during that time.
That means, the number of births was just 148,000 higher than the number of deaths, a number that dropped by 84% from the period before the pandemic, he said in his analysis.
However, there were other factors involved in the population decline, Johnson wrote, including lower immigration rates, drug overdoses, or poor health among Americans.
"Even before COVID, the number of deaths was growing annually, while the number of births was diminishing," Johnson wrote. "COVID certainly exacerbated these trends, but over the long term, mortality is likely to continue to rise among the aging U.S. population, and the decline in births, which began during the Great Recession, appears to be ongoing.”
He also found that more than 400 counties in the United States saw their first population declines over the past two years.
That is the lowest number of children being born since 1979, at a time when there were 100 million fewer people in the United States than there are now.
The birth numbers come as reports show the population of the United States grew by 393,000 last year, both as a result of the pandemic and from slower immigration numbers under the Trump administration. This was the lowest annual population increase in more than 100 years.
"The number of deaths has increased dramatically nationally," William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, commented. "On top of it, you have lower natural increase. People are putting off having children. Put it together and that's the equation."
The population declines came mainly throughout Appalachia, in much of the Midwest, and the Northeast, but large areas of the Mountain West and the West Coast, where there are usually increases, saw drops in numbers.
Further, every county in the states of Maine, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island felt losses in population in the last year.
Rural America has been losing more people than it gained over the past decade, but now, the population is dropping in the nation's largest counties as well, with eight out of 10 of them losing people over the past year.
The largest loss was in Los Angeles County, where the population dropped by more than 159,000 people. Other large losses were felt in New York County, which covers Manhattan, where the population dropped by 6.9%, and in San Francisco County, which saw a drop of 6.7%.
Frey found that for the first time in modern history metropolitan areas with more than one million people lost population, with the counties that are homes to the cities of Chicago, Houston, San Diego, Miami, and Dallas, losing people, along with Orange County in California and parts of New York.
However, places where there are significant Mormon populations, like Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and parts of Arizona saw population increases, as well as places that attract retired people such as much of Florida and in counties near the Atlantic Ocean in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
The largest countywide population growth was in Maricopa County, Arizona, the home county of Phoenix, which added 58,000 new residents in 2021. Meanwhile, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area marked the largest metro-area growth, adding 97,000 new residents.
Other fast-growing metro areas include Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Atlanta, Tampa, Charlotte, and Raleigh. The counties that saw the greatest population growth last year were located in Texas, Florida, Utah, and Idaho.
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